If the Los Angeles Dodgers season starts anytime soon, it will likely be without fans in the stands.
As the federal government has extended social distancing guidelines until April 30, and some states are issuing stay-at-home orders that extend into June, Major League Baseball is starting to confront the reality that a baseball season will likely have to begin without crowds, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
A team executive was quoted in the report as saying, “By a matter of weeks, we will be able to play games without crowds [before we can play games] with them.” Another official told Sherman, “I think the only way we play, at least initially, is without fans.”
MLB and the Players Association agreed a season wouldn’t begin until bans on mass gatherings were lifted, as well as travel restrictions, and only when medical experts determine the games will not pose a risk to teams and fans. Obviously, playing without fans in attendance is the avenue the league and players are exploring to meet the final requirement.
Along with other businesses around the country, Major League Baseball is looking for creative ways to earn revenue while being respectful to social distancing guidelines and maintaining the safety of personnel. Playing games in empty stadiums might be the only solution to do this. It would allow the schedule to begin sooner than if they were required to wait until fans were safe enough to gather in large crowds.
Predicting if, when, or how baseball returns this season seems to change depending on the baseball people being quoted in various reports. Yesterday, The Athletic cast doubt on the idea of playing a 2020 season, as industry scouts and analysts worried how teams would handle players possibly getting sick after play resumed.
Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that minor league players, who are not on the 40-man roster, will be paid $400 per week through May 31 and continue to receive medical benefits. Joel Sherman’s report says it is unlikely a “standard minor league feeder system” would exist at the onset of a 2020 season.
The Dodgers were set to open the new year on March 26 against the San Francisco Giants. It is believed that if a season returns, they would pick up on the schedule wherever it happens to land, with games added in the form of double-headers or to the end of the season.